For the days when you want to be anywhere but here.

Mama said there would be days like this. But sometimes days turn into weeks and weeks into months and one day his or her comment will all but push you over the edge, and you'll walk in the front door a crying mess. You'll wonder what in the world you were thinking saying yes to something like this, and if you had only known, you would have politely said thank you, but no thank you. You dread the emails, the phone calls, the well meant inquiries from people who know you've struggled just to make it through the day, because let's be honest, you're still struggling just to make it through the day, and to even think about what tomorrow may hold is enough to make you want to walk out the door without so much as a goodbye or it was nice knowing you.

There will be days like this, my mama said, when it seems like nothing you do is good enough, but the world keeps tacking things onto your to do list like it's no big thing; like your whole life revolves around making them happy, no matter how thinly you've spread yourself. Never mind that you have a home and a family and its everything that you can do just to keep it together under the weight of all the responsibility.

Hot liquid salt will roll like tiny raging grief tsunamis, and the truth is, all you want is to just be better: a better wife, a better friend, a better daughter, a better sister, a better homemaker. Some days the should be's and the have to be's and the need to be's choke the life from the truth of who you were created to be.

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You were never meant to carry the weight of the world. The stanzas of a familiar old tune recall that He's got the whole world in His hand. And if He's got the whole world, He's got you, because last time I checked, no one has ever survived floating around in space without oxygen or food or warmth. You are not a martian.

You might be in the wilderness. 

There's an old adage -- something about whatever God leads you to, He will bring you through. He never leaves you where He found you. The wilderness is God's slow cooker, and perhaps the only way to reach the finish line is to come to the altar with our rawness, our readiness to be seasoned with what He is preparing to teach us on the journey.

The people who tell you that this life with Jesus is easy are lying. They're the ones who could never expose their broken parts. With or without Jesus, this life will break you. With or without Jesus, you will spend a night writhing in tears on the kitchen floor because everything has fallen apart and you don't know how you got here or how to put your life back together again. With or without Jesus, you will be broken, but when you're walking through the wilderness with Christ, love and grace and joy and peace and hope are what shine through the cracks. When you walk through the wilderness with Christ, the pain is never wasted.

It isn't ever that He has caused the pain, no, our brokenness breaks the very heart of God. And so the Word became flesh and came down into all of our wildernesses and said I am the Way. I have given you purpose, I have gone before you, I know what you were created for...

a life of abundance.

[Tweet "The Word became flesh and came down into all our wildernesses and said 'I am the Way.'"]

This wilderness? It only lasts for a moment. The wilderness is where we learn to live radical trust, the wilderness is where we learn surrender. The wilderness reminds us that comfort doesn't come from temporal things, but an eternal Person. This place only exists as a reminder that the world is not our home.

 

When You Know its Time to Change Your Mantra

ocean

Five of us women piled laughing into her great big sports utility vehicle. We had been in training together for four weeks, the latest of which brought us to the hustle and chaos of the city. We had taken turns driving each day to a different lunch destination, and as we pulled into the narrow space, I jokingly admitted that I would be afraid to drive such a massive car.

And then it happened.

The one in the front seat turned to me and said “you’ve got to stop saying you’re afraid.”

Ouch. Barely a month after meeting me, she speaks these words. And I wonder how many times a week — a day, even — I say that I am afraid. I know that I am an anxious person, but do I really let that anxiety overflow from my heart and through my lips often enough for her to pick up on it so quickly? I sit quiet though lunch, embarrassed and pondering.

Read more over at (in)courage

The Dare to Live the Truest Thing {Five Minute Friday}

winepress_neot_kedumimImage source.

My heart is blessed as I look back to the very first five minutes I spent nervously sewing together syllables on starting out small and living the truest thing. If you had told me back in August that this cup of words would be overflowing, and that my heart would be transformed through this gathering of women, I scarcely would have believed.  I know now that Hannah's invitation to the party was the Lord's tangible provision.

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A moment of confession? I'm not much for having consistent quiet times, but the Lord will often bring to mind a verse or story that I think about throughout the day. Frequently, I find myself asking Him what He is trying to speak into my life through that particular piece of scripture.  Lately, I have been meditating on the story of Gideon.

Gideon was the smallest man in the weakest tribe.  When the angel of the Lord came to him, he was found hiding, crouched down in a wine press to thresh wheat. And all at once, I realize how much of my life, my one and only life here, is spent the same way: in fear of being discovered by that which knows and desires to exploit my weakness.

We have an enemy who revels in stealing, killing, and destroying, and the target is our joy. And he knows so well that if he can just gnaw away at our joy, our strength wanes in tow.

But our hearts are never hidden from the call of the Almighty. He has a way about Him, always reaching into our most vulnerable and dark places.

The angel said to Gideon, "the Lord is with you, mighty warrior."

Um, excuse me, I think you must have the wrong person, Lord. Surely, if you knew me -- if you knew about my anxiety, my depression, my addiction, my baggage,  how I hurt that person; surely, if you knew what other people were saying about me, you wouldn't be calling me mighty warrior. 

We all have our stuff that keeps us from getting out of the boat. Stuff that we think disqualifies us.  Gideon replies that he cannot possibly defeat the enemy, as he does not have the strength.

The miracle of grace is that our baggage is not the banner waving over us {Click to Tweet}. The Lord tells Gideon to go in the strength that he has. He tells Gideon that He will go with him.

And there it is, in front of my eyes in scripture: a dare to live the truest thing I know. The call to step out of the boat in faith, knowing that his voice calms the swell of the waves.

Because the Father's joy is to make a way where there seems to be none, to come to the smallest, the least likely, and accomplish the unthinkable. Gideon went in the strength that he had, and defeated the enemy.

I wonder what strength I have. Is it the strength to say a kind word when I am feeling frustrated? The strength to be patient with the unhurried daycare worker when I am late to a visit between a mother and her child? The strength to speak life into that mother's heart, even though it seems as though the deck has been stacked against her?

Sometimes it takes all the strength I have to get out of bed and come to this job again. But then, I realize that we, too, have been given the ability to reach into the pain in the lives of the people around us and come alongside them.

The most appropriate response to the gift of grace is to give -- give beyond what we think we can, knowing that the Lord will supply all of our needs according to His riches in glory.

This, this, is how we overcome.

 

Sharing words and shaping culture with some of the most gracious women on the planet today at Lisa-Jo's place. I guarantee, you don't want to miss out on this party.  

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If You Don't Recognize Holy Tonight.

I never used to like the song “Oh Holy Night." When I was a kid, I never understood what the words meant, and it seemed to go on and on

...sort of like my sin. Like the sin of the world that was too great for my feeble understanding at the tender age of twelve.

Long lay the world in sin and error, pining.

I didn't know what it meant to pine for something; to search for and want and need salvation more than the next beat of my heart. My soul had never known weary.

I imagine the very core of the earth heaving a sigh. An overwhelming spirit of heaviness.  And I see the latest news, everything screaming the wild lack of all that is sacred and holy.

But there, in the depth of night, a glimmer. A thrill of hope. 

Salvation came, a bloody and gasping infant. Peace is a person, one who has walked this dusty earth. He traded the entirety of glory for my skin and bones. His name is Emmanuel.

He is still with us.

Did you know that there is a second verse? For the longest time, I didn't.

A lamb without blemish, spread naked across an altar, bore the pain of nails and splinters that should have been mine. A curtain torn from top to bottom, unleashing furious glory over the earth. A crescendo of love, pouring out from the heavens as love won the war.

But it probably didn't seem like that in the immediate, in the carrying of his broken body to the tomb. The twelve huddled, wondering what to do next, some daring to ask if they should part ways and return to their old lives. They knew questions in the deep darkness. They were bound to it for three days.

We know chains. Anxiety, depression, addiction, fear, hopelessness, temptation, judgement, selfishness, lies. They coil around our spirits, threatening to choke the very life from us.

Even after Christ had risen, some had their doubts. Perhaps you've visited those dark corners with me? Some shadows seem heavy enough to dim the truth. Even Mary, as she looked upon her risen Lord, her Savior, did not recognize him.

She probably believed that the final battle had been lost. All hope, all that held her together, had been desecrated.

Sometimes holy is right before our eyes, in the tiny moments when we least expect it. Sometimes holy looks like the gardener. But then comes the beautiful recognition. The life sustaining revelation that he now holds the keys.

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother. And in his name, all oppression shall cease.

Hallelujah, we are no longer bound. Not only are the chains unlocked, but they are broken.

That, dear friends, is revolutionary. 

Can your soul feel its worth? Oh, that the Creator of this universe, in all of His splendor, would love us so fully.

So if in the hustle and bustle of life, you're missing out on feeling loved, missing out on the joy and the hope and all that is sacred and holy...

just slow down and breathe him in.

Take a few moments, I promise, this is so worth your while.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nvMKc48ams&w=420&h=315]

A God Who Beckons

In Revelation, scripture says that God is knocking on our doors, and if anyone hears His voice and opens the door, He will come in and eat with them. But my insides, well, they're all tied up in doubt and grief knots. I wonder if the Lord delights in the inner workings of my heart and my thoughts. Am I creating the kind of dwelling place that my Creator would desire to inhabit? The world can be such a grim place, and sometimes I forget trust. I search for security in places that it cannot be found. All the while, He is inviting me into the residence of His goodness. Isaiah says He reaches for me all day long. In spite of my mess, in spite of my waywardness. He longs to commune with me.

Sometimes I forget that I am known -- that He is wholeheartedly in favor of me. Believing is sometimes a moment by moment battle, but each of these moments is an invitation to trust. Each moment stretches my heart farther than I thought it could go.

And sometimes, the stretching is painful. It pushes me out of my complacency, pulls me out of my good and fine and comfortable and into the messy and hard and genuine; the grace that is at the end of myself and beyond.

Each of those moments is an invitation to become more like Christ. More like the redeemer of everything it means to be human.

Perhaps I must turn down my noise in order to really hear the knock. The choice to be still is not always readily made, but that is the invitation: to open my heart to His reaching arms, and allow Him to bring peace.

Because to know that there's nothing I can do to make Him love me more? That can sometimes be a bit anxiety inducing. But flipped, it is also the most freedom giving. To rest at His feet, and simply be.

The Testimony of Creation

Donald Miller once wrote "all the trees are losing their leaves, and not one of them is worried." I can't tell you how much time has passed since I first read those words, but I can tell you that they still leave me in a mixed state of awestruck and convicted. I keep coming back to them.

I have always loved Autumn. Nothing quite compares to the way blue sky stretches to meet crinkly mustard and burnt sienna, and the swaying motion of crisp terra cotta as it dives towards the ground. Its all incredibly beautiful, but there is a much darker side: creeping death is at work. Soon, the trees will be skeletons, shivering in biting gray wind.

The earth is unafraid of what is about to take place. She does not struggle to maintain her grip.

Oh, how I have been afraid, and struggled to maintain my grip.

In the opening chapter of Romans, Paul tells the church at Rome that there is no excuse for not knowing God, when His glory can be found everywhere. By taking a look around us, His divine presence should be evident enough.

Christ tells us to consider the birds, how they don't sow or reap or gather, and yet the Lord sustains them. Will He not provide for us, His children, in the same way? And look at the lilies, they don't toil or spin, and yet they are dressed more beautifully than even the richest of kings. Simple grass, here today and gone tomorrow. How much more does Father God care for us? He knows what we need, and longs to be gracious.

Donald continues, "teach us what the flowers already know: that we'll live and die, and You'll clothe us -- all for your glory."

Eyes brim as I recall in scripture where it says that He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.  Even when I'm falling, even when it seems like I have been forgotten and all hope seems lost. Even when the pain of winter is so bitter, and springtime seems so far away. He is holding me together.

Is this not reason enough to praise?

Christ said that if we cease praising, the very rocks will cry out.

This is the testimony of creation: that we don't have to worry about what may come tomorrow. Creation testifies to the heart of the Creator.

A friend tweets "Study God as Creator, because if He made you, then He can keep you, and if He can keep you, then He can always reach you. He's strong enough to love you."

God as Creator: His name literally means “the sound of breathing.” He spoke, breathed His life image into the world and all that is went through the process of becoming. He spoke perfection: once broken, but never beyond His reach. The Word became flesh, but even his own failed to recognize him, and how often do I err in the same way? How frequently do I go through my days without realizing the evidence of a grace-torn curtain, His glory unleashed?

Christ, entirely familiar with my afflictions, and yet without sin. He took my punishment. How could that be insufficient? And how much does He, who went to the ends of the earth to save once and for all, desire to bless with all things?

Knowing this, receiving it, is how we begin to live a life like the lilies, a life that wholly recognizes the sovereignty of God. The lilies live open, stretched upward, as though to say that they are ready to receive the grace.

He’s holding me together, in His love and mercy. He knows what I need before I ask. Nothing that happens here catches Him off guard — and all those nagging “what ifs” and all the creeping, crippling fear have no place when we rest in His presence, when we listen to the truth that He is speaking over us: that we are always loved, always within reach.

Coming to the AltarLinking up with The Nester and a host of other amazing bloggers for {31 Days}Returning to some words written last month in When Fear Throws Pebbles...